Whoever has the 'power of the pen' must exercise it! But how, and how in EESG themes?
Sustainable LeadershipSustainabilityExecutive Search
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August 25, 2020
Sustainable LeadershipSustainabilityExecutive Search
The main executives must be committed to the adoption of sustainability and this characteristic must be checked during the hiring process. 

Valor Investe

The Valor article, “Whoever has the ‘power of the pen’ must exercise it! But how, and how in EESG themes?” featured findings from our joint research on sustainable leadership with the United Nations Global Compact, “Leadership for the Decade of Action,” as well as key takeaways from our webi​​​​nar co-hosted with the Global Compact Network Brazil. A translated excerpt of the article is below.​ 

Leadership is a key word when it comes to implementing the sustainability agenda in companies. Can you do this job without support from top manageme​nt? You can. But it takes much longer and the results are not always satisfactory and lasting. So let's skip this step and tackle the heart of the matter: Our CEOs and chairwomen and chairmen need to be protagonists of this path, inspire their teams, act as a compass and beacon for incorporating sustainability into corporate strategy, policies and practices.​ 

The following questions are: "How?" and “What is the profile of this leader? 
I will respond with data from the recently launched survey of the United Nations Global Compact and Russell Reynolds Associates, “Leadership for the Decade of Action.” The study heard 55 CEOs and members of the Boards of Directors from different countries, pioneering professionals in inserting sustainability into the corporate essence. Their careers were also analyzed and a comparison was made with a control ​​​group of 50 CEOs from organizations in the Global Fortune 500 ranking with low sustainability performance. Finally, a group of experts in the field was consulted. 

The study is very rich and I recommend the complete reading. Briefly, the results show that what differentiates “sustainable leaders” is the understanding that the to​​​pic cannot be considered separately from the business. In addition, four basic attributes of “sustainable leadership,” or “sustainable mindset,” were identified in the original: 

Multilevel teaching: Th​​ese leaders have a comprehensive attitude, get involved and collaborate with other organizations and actors; they are naturally curious, have a high level of ambition and are results oriented. 

Stakeholder exclusion: Sustainable leaders do not manage stakeholders, they include them. For that, they have high levels of empathy and authenticity. They include stakeholders in the decision-making process and share the benefits of the process with them. 

Disruptive innovation: The leaders interviewed said that real progress on the sustainability agenda will not occur through incremental improvements and adjustments in business as usual. In this view, the process requires exponential change and innovation in the business model. This leader challenges conventional approaches. 

Long-term teaching: Sustainable leaders are not only driven by the long-term, but also set bold goals and adopt rigorous and effective measures and investments to achieve them.​ 

Ok, the company has leaders with this profile, perfect. And now, how can sustainability be transformed into a corporate culture, permeating the en​​tire​​ organization? The research indicated that for this four processes are fundamental: 

​Executive selection: The main executives must be committed to the adoption of sustainability and this characteristic must be checked during the hiring process. 

Succession: The theme of sustainable leadership must also be considered in succession planning. 

Incentives: It is mandatory that the remuneration system rewards the integration of sustainability into the business structure. It is the famous “walk the talk.” 

Development: The leadership of the development process must be based on a mindset focused on sustainability and develop these attributes in the team.​​​ 


​Mariane Montana​, Director for the Industry & Natural Resources sector at Russell Reynolds Brazil: “We have an urgent nature to change our leadership. And I really believe in executives in Brazil.” 

To read the full article, click here​.​